Teach For America Burned Me Out

It’s back-to-school season, and for the first time, I am not a part of the melee. At 24 years old, I have no classes to prepare for, no lead pencils to buy. My masters degree is completed, a useless (and enormous) piece of cardstock in a very expensive frame. College is a distant utopian dream. My two years as an inner-city middle-school teacher have been distilled to a line on a resume, a punch line to the black joke that was my early twenties. That thing I did, that one time.

I applied to Teach for America for the same reasons as anyone else. Fear was primary among them. It was 2009, and Anthropology majors were not getting jobs. Of course, idealism played its part: Educational inequity! Changing the world! The fourth season of The Wire! And there were more than a couple of New York Times articles patting TFA corps members of the back. According to NYT, we are among the nation’s Best and Brightest. The nine percent. When I got in, I felt both breathlessly relieved…and deeply validated.

This feeling faded almost immediately. TFA is notoriously brutal, and the workload is intense. In my first five months as a teacher, I juggled TFA meetings, school meetings, data tracking, a masters degree, and a full-time position as a professional Wrangler of 14-Year-Olds. When people asked how I was doing, I would nod really hard and say, “It’s challenging, but it’s soooooo rewarding!”

Somehow HR sniffed out my cautious contentment. I was promptly relocated from an under-enrolled charter school to a school bursting at the seams with eighth graders who had already seen two English teachers come and go. I would be their third teacher in six months.

There was, I found, a reason for that, one that was not entirely the students’ fault.  

The city where I taught lives and dies by a lowest-common-denominator standardized test, used primarily as a way to make everyone (administration, faculty, students) miserable. “We aren’t teaching to the test,” our administrators lied, “we are simply helping students do their very best.” The material was lackluster, and despite my best attempts to jazz it up, students were apathetic at best. I couldn’t blame them for that.  

I could, however, blame them for starting a fire in the back of my classroom. For piercing their own lips and ears as I attempted to simultaneously explain my slides on personification, and confiscate their makeshift awls. I could blame them for vandalizing my classroom. For breaking the door to my room, throwing objects at my head, and instructing me to “shut the fuck up, bitch” so often that I started playing a grim version of Teacher Bingo. I won if I heard it more than twice per period.  

My principal, who visited my classroom exactly once, had some helpful advice for me. “Mr. ________ knows how to manage them!” she said, citing the 8th grade team leader, who had been teaching for 29 years, seven years longer than I had been alive. “Why don’t you act more like him?” she continued, before sweeping out of my classroom. “And stop sending me office referrals. I’m drowning in paper as it is.”

Well. Okay.

The panic attacks began in mid-January. My heart became a percussionist, my entrails contortionists, my thoughts sluggish swimmers in a thick, constant current of dread. I fantasized about crashing my car on purpose. Already a vegan, I cut out sugar. I cut out gluten. Soon I cut out eating almost completely. I was caffeine and nerves, thrumming like a human electric wire. I didn’t think I would ever be happy again.

Summer came. I don’t know how. I went home, I read books. My heart lost its frantic energy.

I wasn’t happy yet. Happiness is a thing that has to be relearned, and I was in a state of mental disrepair. Like a collapsed house on a fault line, I had to be rebuilt slowly. I was eating normally, I was even going out, but my wiring was incomplete, my joins unfinished. And below me, the fault line waited.

I didn’t quit. It would be a waste to turn back now.

It’s interesting what happens to ideals when they are under fire. I still believed in TFA’s mission, but I had been unworthy. I gave myself another year to make good on the promises I made in my application essay. One year for reparations.

During Institute, TFA’s five-week Teacher Bootcamp, there was a rumor going around that TFA chose its corps members for their “Grit,” a thinly veiled code for “masochism.” This made sense to me: I knew I had gotten in when I told my interviewer that I “volunteered in war zones” and her eyes widened with glee; my decision to return for a second year must have been driven, in whole or in part, by this tendency to put myself on trial by fire. It had very little to do with the students—not because I didn’t care about their futures but because I had so little confidence in my teaching abilities that I doubted my presence in the classroom would make any kind of difference in their lives. But I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t beaten yet.  

Second year was, in comparison, a dream. I had been assigned honors classes—the privilege of seniority!—and my principal had other, greener teachers to pick on. Most importantly, I began the year with my students, established immediately that This Is How We Do It in Ms. Elbaz’s Class. I wasn’t afraid to exact discipline because I knew, firsthand, what would happen if I didn’t.

The lingering tendrils of depression and anxiety evaporated. I had friends again. I felt human. And miraculously, I was actually teaching. Not babysitting. Not breaking up fights. Not watching my lesson plan turn to shit. Kids listened to the words that came out of my mouth. They would cower under a reproachful gaze. They asked my advice after class, hung out in my room after school, emailed me on weekends and sent “get well” texts when I was sick. I worked fourteen, fifteen hour days, and I was happy. Not all the time, not every day. When you are a teacher in the inner city, failure is your shadowy companion, a phantom frenemy. You hate each other, but somehow you can’t fully shake him.

My second year was a last hurrah. I was tired of the fickleness of my administration, the disorganization and mismanagement of resources and finances, the arbitrary and often conflicting demands made of teachers in failing schools, the lack of consistency in our principal’s behavior and demands, the low morale.

I joined TFA to be part of the solution. In leaving, I became a part of the problem. TFA’s model, predicated on a two-year commitment, is inherently flawed. High teacher turnover contributes to the disorganization, discipline problems, poor academic performance, and low morale of urban schools. For true reform to take place, teachers need to stay.

A parable, about morale and turnover: When I quit, my colleagues threw me a sendoff brunch. The party line was “we’ll miss you!” The whispered subtext was “good for you!” It was like being released, blinking and hopeful, from jail. The other prisoners waved me off, counting the days til their own liberations.

I started an “Escape” fund, stashing birthday money and small bills into the hand-painted box where I keep old letters—a tangible, if childish, incentive to meet my future head on. The next year was a big blank, an I-Dare-You, a terrifying promise. I could publish a novel or go into consulting or join a circus or do anything but stare America’s biggest problem in the face every day; I settled on moving to San Francisco with my roommate, so high on the idea of change that my unemployment didn’t seem like a big deal. Teaching had burned me out so much that I refused, point-blank, to get a job that was anything less than perfect; in my febrile brain, San Francisco was the answer to every problem that TFA/Adulthood had lobbed at me. The perfect job existed on the West Coast, I would move there and be happy forever.

The light at the end of the tunnel is blinding.

You can guess the end of this story. I got rejected from low-paying non-profit job after low-paying non-profit job. The rent was too damn high, my Escape fund too damn small. I had a choice: eke out a living, however meager, on my terms (flexible hours/ telecommuting, writing-oriented), in a cheap city I was starting to hate, or blow through my money in one of the most expensive cities in America with no guarantee for the future.

The financial responsibility of choosing the former depressing option is somewhat mitigated by the fact that I still have no proper job, despite having TFA on my resume.

Like everyone, I made compromises, weighed what would make me happy instead of what would be most financially savvy. The most lucrative option was to take the corporate job I was offered this summer; the best option would have been to become a freegan beach bum with dreadlocks and no hang-ups about scrounging for food. I chose the happiest medium I could find, without feeling like I was sacrificing my mental health. Two years of stress, of head-and-heartache, convinced me that no job is better than a bad job.  I use this time to write, to peruse grad school applications half-heartedly, to cook and read and plan. I tell myself that I have time before The Real World—that ultimate debt-collector—comes for me, too.

 

See also: What Teach for America Taught Me (And Why You Should Apply)

Adi Elbaz wanted to write a book about her first year in the classroom until she realized that William Golding had already done it.

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38 Comments / Post A Comment

bgprincipessa (#699)

I loved this story and its message, especially because you are exactly right that TFA’s model is just NOT working, as so many of the teachers leave after their commitment. Another abandonment is often not what those students need. But, what’s the alternative? Unfortunately one hasn’t been figured out yet.

I too applied for TFA, but I was not one of the “lucky” 9%. I am grateful for that, because I would not have had your determination despite my passion for education.

Two things:
1. After reading that article and being a little dejected, I did get a good laugh about the William Golding line.
2. I am confused by “I had a choice: eke out a living, however meager, on my terms (flexible hours/ telecommuting, writing-oriented), in a cheap city I was starting to hate, or blow through my money in one of the most expensive cities in America with no guarantee for the future.” Was it just me? I think you were trying to keep things vague but I ended up being lost.

wearitcounts (#772)

@bgprincipessa no, i was confused too. i have no idea where she ended up or what she ended up doing.

Vicky (#2,266)

I know a handful of close friends who applied for TFA (in 2007 or thereabouts). The ones who got rejected? Actively employed in education still, mostly in the classroom but some in administration or curriculum roles. The ones who got in? Without exception quit within a year and a half and moved on to non-education positions (or, like Adi, unemployment). Now this is purely anecdotal, but I don’t get the impression that TFA is really great at selecting people who actually *want to teach.*

Of course, the wildly inadequate preparation was cited by some of the quitters – is TFA turning would-be teachers off of the profession by supportlessly throwing them to the wolves? Probably both, honestly.

Tom Ward@twitter (#2,336)

@Vicky
This is exactly my view: If you really want to teach, don’t do TFA. Get the best preparation you can, work your butt off, and you’ll find a job. And if you want to help in an inner-city district, you’ll be much better prepared than a first year TFA’er with 5 weeks of boot camp prep.

My story at: mrwardteaches.wordpress.com

Whiteflash93 (#2,276)

I’m confused how no job is better than a bad job. I’ve had some truly crappy jobs, but I had bills to pay and honestly I just don’t get choosing unemployment.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Whiteflash93 I agree. How is she surviving if she chose no job?
I am baffled when people, especially younger people, say they are going to publish a novel or need to work on “their terms” and then they expect that to just happen. What do you think John Steinbeck did when he was 24? He sure as hell had to work other jobs that didn’t fit in with his “terms”.

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@josefinastrummer That part made me roll my eyes, too. And it doesn’t sound like her second year was that bad at all, so why is she so paralyzed by her former bad job?

@Whiteflash93 Actually John Steinbeck moved back in with his parents after failing to publish his stories in NYC. He worked for a short time commuting to SF then decided to borrow loans from his parents, not work and commit to writing. Funnily enoug :-P

awk (#840)

Applying for TFA is the privileged-college-graduate equivalent of enlisting in the military. It’s done by people who don’t truly know what they are getting themselves into, and most of the time they quit as soon as their contract will let them.

I am not disparaging either people who were in the military or privileged college kids, because I fit into both of those categories. But while young people with no ideas about the real world make the best soldiers, they generally aren’t the greatest teachers.

Tommy (#2,290)

@awk As someone who was also in the military I have to disagree with you. Most people I know knew EXACTLY what they were getting into when they joined the military. If they didn’t, they quickly figured it out at a little thing called boot camp. DI’s have a way of making you understand.

Also, you can learn alot of useful skills from just a few years in the military. TFA just seems like a crappy resume builder.

awk (#840)

@Tommy I wasn’t saying that people don’t know physically what they are getting into when they join up or apply for TFA. I am sure it’s well defined in the TFA training camp that teachers will be thrown into terrible situations. I’m just saying that certain naivete can make it easier to mold a person into a good soldier. Naivete is certainly not a characteristic one should possess when teaching traumatized inner-city children, however.

Morbo (#1,236)

Excellent piece, especially revealing how school administration does not effectively support their teachers.

littleoaks (#1,801)

It’s not really clear to me how the happy medium between corporate 9-5ing and freeganism is not having any income (I assume?) but still paying for things like rent and food in a pricy city. This sounds pretty stressful and unsustainable, but I am interested (and not in a snide rhetorical way!) in how the author makes this work.

Actually, you still can’t blame your students for all that. You really, really can’t. They get saddled with a shitty new teacher who doesn’t understand their culture, their background, or how to teach EVERY SINGLE YEAR. You were only one in a depressingly long line of terrible teachers, who will pass the students along because the administration tells them to, and then the next year, they will be even more resentful and angry and violently inclined. But don’t worry! A lot of them will end up in prison if they’re boys!

bazbaz (#1,953)

@Jake Reinhardt what an unnecessarily snide and obnoxious (not to mention supremely unhelpful)comment. Regardless of background, fourteen year olds know (at least marginally) right from wrong. They know that setting a fire in the back of their classroom is the wrong thing to do. They just don’t care, or they want to see what they can get away with. Your comment only reinforces the low, low standards to which our society holds kids from lower income backgrounds. Asserting discipline and expecting better from these kids (and not getting it) does not mean that their frustrated teachers rejoice when former trouble students end up dead or in jail, and your comment, however glib, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of these kids’ lives and their teachers’ efforts.

@bazbaz Nope, you’re wrong. The 14 year olds can’t be blamed for their ridiculous behavior in an entirely ridiculous and harmful situation. Our society doesn’t hold the kids to low standards- our society doesn’t GIVE A SHIT about those kids, and if we did, their educational system wouldn’t be so entirely terrible. Asserting discipline is not something that a first-year teacher is very good at; they need support and a great administration, and proper processes. I don’t blame the first year teacher, nor do I blame the students, I blame the clueless masses of politicians that think that teach for america or teaching fellows, or whatever new b.s. they’ll come up with is the answer to a problem with many awful levels.

Believe me, I understand these kids’ lives and their teachers’ efforts tenfold. I was one. My assertion about the boys going to prison is both equally statistically accurate and heartbreaking.

@Jake Reinhardt The whole tone of this article is “Woe is me, the white person seeking a Jobs for White People position and discovering these positions mean you have to tolerate minority children until you’ve put in the requisite number of years babysitting them to claim a government pension. If only these children were middle class white children such as I once was, they would have had the honor of being “taught” by me!”

allreb (#502)

From my older sister/roommie, who teaches in a high poverty urban school: TFA is terrible because it encourages the mindset of teaching for two years as a stepping stone to *something else* when you’re done — it’ll look good on applications. And it’s terrible again because students get screwed over by having a new teacher every year, not just because they never get to develop relationships with teachers but because new teachers are not very good at teaching yet. And it’s terrible again because, well, new teachers are *really* not very good at teaching yet — she’s in her eighth year now and says it took her five years to really learn what she was doing. There’s no way a crash course can prepare you (her master’s degree from a very, very good grad program didn’t prepare her).

Basically, TFA throws warm, optimistic bodies at a huge problem and all it does is turn those people into cynics who have zero interest in ever teaching again.

LC (#2,281)

I spent two years on the Navajo reservation as a TFA corps member. Your description of the first year of teaching is spot on, no doubt. I went on to teach for a couple more years and finally burnt out completely after a year of teaching 8th grade Humanities in East Oakland. Teaching can be amazing, but I’ve always had issues with the way TFA thinks that 5 weeks of summer training can prepare someone for the true terror of a first year classroom. On a positive tip, I do think the experience made me more empathetic to the plight of teachers in the U.S. and gave me a solid understanding (from the inside) of the complete breakdown of education in this country. Thanks for sharing your story.

P.J. Morse (#665)

@LC 5 weeks of training is never enough.

What the general public (and I’m including educational administrators here, alas) refuse to understand is that teaching is brutal. It is a tough gig, no matter how you slice it, and the people who choose that career need some practical training. I am not sure what happens in TFA training, but most of the training I had before my brief stint in teaching was theoretical and way too removed from the nitty-gritty of working with students.

Then again, if the general public admitted that teaching was hard, they’d have to start paying the teachers more, and I guess that won’t fly in these union-busting, salary-freezing times.

JP (#2,284)

Ummmmm…it’s nice that you have thrown off the shackles of a job you hated, but you need to get another one. As a writer who works a “soul-crushing” corporate-ish job that still allows me lots of free time to write while also providing a steady rate of pay, a set-but-malleable schedule, and health insurance, I can 100% vouch that you’re doing this wrong now. I’ve been wandering for seven years and had 10 different jobs in that time across all manner of industries, but I’ve always found work, and it has always made everything better. Work in a restaurant, spend 25-35 hours a week getting shit on for $12-15 an hour, pay some bills, have some throw-away cash, and live. You’re a good writer, but you’re not getting a NOVEL published any time soon, so make some money, work on your craft, and have some life experience.

I’ve known a lot of “writers” with this attitude, who insist that one day things are going to get better for them if they want it bad enough and get web publications and “just live, man”, but those people suck, and they don’t develop on-time with their aspirations. More than anything else, you need a job. You need to see a fuller picture. You need to earn some stuff before you’ll achieve anything.

Just because TFA sucked doesn’t mean you get to not make a living while “figuring it out”. No job is NOT better than a bad job. Sling some sandwiches or coffee and see if that helps with your head-and-heartache. As of this moment, you’re letting both of those define you, and that, pardon my language, is horseshit.

Scolding over. Nice article, and good luck to you.

@JP The author said that she had no “proper” job. I assume that by this she means that she is doing *something* to pay the bills, but not something that she considers to be a career.

Clare (#2,138)

The line that really stuck out to me was that after two years in TFA you could (paraphrased) “go into consulting.” I assume for educational consulting companies, like the one my bocce teammate works for. She gets sent to failing schools around the country and tries to turn them around. This, even though she’s never taught a class and knows nothing about classroom management or teacher-administrator relations outside what she’s read in a textbook. (This is by her own admission.)

As the daughter of two teachers, I find it unacceptable that there are more than a few young people who believe that by dint of doing a two-year stint in TFA (or, for the young turks in finance, getting an undergraduate degree from Wharton or Tuck) they’re qualified to come in and totally upend the way a school runs without having the experience of worked as one of the rank and file they are ostensibly “helping.” How are you going to learn where the system is flawed without working within the system? Asking people where it’s flawed isn’t the same thing.

Whatever you do next, best of luck to you.

Let me guess, you taught in Philadelphia? While not TFA, I taught for two years in the School District of Philadelphia, and this article could have been written by me. To the people who don’t understand how someone could be so traumatized by having a “bad job”, allow me to offer some insight: I was hospitalized because of the anxiety and depression caused by this job. I have a colleague who was actually diagnosed with POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER! What you’ve seen in movies and t.v. shows about “tough urban schools” looks like a walk in the park on a beautiful sunny day compared to reality. And TFA truly confounds me. Five weeks of training can’t possibly prepare one to be a competent teacher. Semester after semester of education classes followed by four months of full-time student teaching didn’t come close to preparing me. It’s not fair to the teachers and it’s not fair to the kids.

Tommy (#2,290)

According to Elbaz’s LinkedIn profile, she downed thousands of dollars on classes such as “Dancing About Architecture” and “Feminist and Queer Theory” at Johns Hopkins. My god, what the heck were you thinking? Something is wrong with our educational system when great universities and their students think these classes are a recipe for success (or even getting a job).

@Tommy Ugh, can we NOT turn this discussion into shitting on the humanities, please? Just because you’re not interested in a thing does not make it worthless.

katiekate (#1,051)

@Tommy SERIOUSLY. also? you have no idea how she paid for her college education, and its JOHNS HOPKINS. It’s a hardcore liberal arts school, and one of the most respected schools in the country. AND it’s UNDERGRAD. Because any employer ever has given a shit what you studied for your BA. Finally, word to @mirror_father_mirror

I had a TFA application all filled out and ready to go, until one of my (service industry) coworkers talked me out of it. His mom is an NYC public school teacher, and has been for decades. These programs are far worse for the students than they are for us debt-riddled millennials— maybe you have a bad time and still wind up unemployed, but the injustice has more to do with the DOZENS OF KIDS WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO LEARN SOMETHING AND DIDN’T. I decided not to apply for TFA because this dude convinced me (quickly, because it’s so fucking obvious) that I had no right to waste a year or more of those kids’ education on my quest for “validation”.

dudeascending (#1,921)

I’ve got lots and lots and lots of sympathy for the writer. I think the drop-out rate for TFA in New York is something like 90% after four years. It’s insane.

I was also confused by where she ended up, but re-reading, it sounds like she never made it to San Francisco.

I did TFA as well- and I’m still teaching, 8 years later. The first year I don’t think I slept, but luckily I was teaching 3rd graders, not adolescents. Getting through two years teaching middle or high schoolers in a failing school should qualify you for some sort of award.

And a note to the TFA haters (and I’m not a TFA lover), look at the drop-out rate for ANY new teachers. Nobody sticks around, especially not in crap schools. And very few people are doing a good job of it. So it’s not like these schools are choosing between a brand-new TFA teacher and some amazing veteran. As she pointed out, those kids had already had 2 different teachers THAT YEAR.

This story is very similar to many reports from TFA alum or drop-outs. Check out http://reconsideringtfa.wordpress.com/.

Britta – yes, attrition is a problem for new teachers, especially in low income areas, but it’s significantly worse for TFA. Moreover, we also know that quality of preparation for teachers makes a significant difference in attrition. This tells us that we should be improving the quality of preparation, not minimizing it to a 5 week boot-camp. Extensive and high quality teacher training ensures we get better prepared and more committed teachers entering the profession. (that last word, “profession” is key)

M. Williams (#2,345)

I have read so many articles regarding the TFA experience as “hard”, “an unhappy time”, and “unreasonable”…and it can be. However, if you really understand why Teach For America exists and why people sincerely join the corps, it is to fight the greatest civil right issues of our time…educational inequity. If you look at the historical hardship of what it means to fight civil rights issues you understand that the fight is not easy, happy, or a reasonable time. I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and their other comrades did not enjoy being beaten, jailed without reason, subjected to racial slurs, and even at times dying for the cause which the believed in!

The girl complains that her principal only came to see her once and she vividly describes the behavior problems of her students. Didn’t she know that the schools Teach For America chooses to infiltrate are those within system that have already been declared broken???? For years these students have been subjected to ineffective administration and lack of expectations. We are not savors, but we do have a responsibility (if you applied and accepted your TFA offer) to TRY. TRY to understand the issues which your students face and TRY to find solutions that are effective within your classroom. TRY to make a difference in the students’ lives. Because without someone who cares these students will NEVER get the opportunity to leave the detrimental environment which society has sentenced them.

We (TFA corps members) have educational attainment which allows us to leave the chaos of low income and under performing schools at any time. However, if you make a commitment to be in TFA you are committing to fight for students who few are willing to fight for. One day can change someone’s life, open your mind to think what you could accomplish in two years! Don’t get me wrong, it is easy to forget the overall mission when you feel like everyday you are losing the battle. HOWEVER…War is not easy. Change is not fast. And whining TFA alum need to do better!

katiekate (#1,051)

@M. Williams Wow, shaming someone by saying “You weren’t even beaten by the police like MLK! Stop your whining!” is probably the least productive conversation in the world. This is the same bullshit argument these kids face everyday: I PULLED MYSELF UP BY THE BOOT STRAPS, WHATS YOUR EXCUSE, KID?

XiXu (#2,992)

@M. Williams, Thanks for bringing us back to reality. I am currently trying to decide whether or not to accept a TFA offer to teach high school mathematics, and your post is a great help. I worked for years as an engineer before resigning to explore other opportunities. Since then I’ve checked out quite a few non-profits and government orgs that supposedly are there for the people they serve, but have been less than impressed with what I’ve seen. In fact, at times it has seemed as if actually trying to work towards positive change seemed an impossibility, because there was always someone there to halt any real progress. I eventually got a job working as a direct support professional in a mental-institution because I knew that at least there I would be able to DO SOMETHING of benefit, even if it was only trying to ensure the residents received access to food, sanitation, and medical care.

TFA seems different than some of the places I looked at, in that the folks there seem honestly committed to doing what is best for the children, no matter how politically unpopular it is. The region where I’ve been offered an assignment has in effect been re-segregated through the institution of private schools for whites and public schools for blacks, has a very high unemployment rate, and yet lacks teachers with the qualifications required to teach. As a result, the students are given permanent substitutes. If TFA can bring people in with enough mathematical knowledge to help the students obtain the math skills necessary to do well enough on the SATs to get into college and eventually pass the PRAXIS exams so that they in turn can become teachers in their communities if they so desire, then they are working towards lasting change, even if most of the teachers only stay there for their two-year committment.

Additionally, while the education gap is a very real thing, something that is often not considered is that in many of these communities there is an exposure gap as well. In fact, TFA may be of benefit precisely because so many of the corps members have such vastly different experiences than are found in the communities served. Many of these TFA corps members can have whatever they want; and in this country, equal opportunity is a legal right. Therefore, the students and administrators of these schools have a right to demand better,and it just so happens that as a result, the requests from these principals and administrators for TFA members far exceed the ability of TFA to place corps members in the regions making the requests.

So these are just the thoughts going through my head as I consider the offer, and don’t represent the views of TFA or anything.

Law or TFA? (#3,036)

I’m a little confused about why leaving after two years is such a problem. Don’t students get a new teacher every year anyway? For example if I’m teaching 4th grade history, won’t my students get a new teacher once they advance to the 5th grade? Do students at inner-city schools have the same teacher for multiple years?

Cath310 (#4,216)

It’s unfortunate you have framed your experience this way. More unfortunate probably, that you were admitted to the program initially. Your anecdote demonstrates a fundamental lack of maturity and self-entitlement. Moreover, your critique of Teach for America as a whole misrepresents the dual missions of the program and contradicts the relevant statistics regarding its efficacy. Your current lack of employment is illustrative of your poor attitude, not your aptitude, and I imagine your next experience in adulthood will be equally disappointing.

sincerebp (#4,217)

I can’t say I understand her purpose in writing this, but I’m assuming it was to shed a less than positive light on teaching and TFA. Instead it only does two things. First, it makes her seem like the exact kind of person that is responsible for leaving schools in the shape they’re in. She teaches poorly, and blames the situation, not the fact that it was her first year in a craft which teachers spend decades honing. She fostered a completely unsafe environment, and blamed the STUDENTS! But hey, at least she made a funny little game for herself.

Second, it only makes me further question TFA’s selection process. What possible lifelong teacher from an HBCU or tiny, inner city college got passed over for this girl that quit on kids that are the victims of a social system that quit on them?

I hope she enjoys the privilege of a unforced sabbatical. Her students would have been better off if she had gone that route from the start.

I’m not going to bash TFA because that would be beating a dead horse. It’s not a good program, etc.

I’ve been teaching for a while now and you did a great job explaining the absolute exhaustion and nerve frazzling that stays with you during and after a bad school year. Great writing. The byline was by far the best part.

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